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March 31, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Court Convicts Ex-PM Olmert of Bribery (AP-Washington Post)
    An Israeli court on Monday convicted former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, 68, of bribery in a Jerusalem real estate scandal related to Olmert's activities as mayor of Jerusalem and minister of industry and trade before he became prime minister in 2006.
    He was accused of taking bribes to push the Holyland apartment complex forward, a controversial project that required a radical change in zoning laws and earned the developers tax breaks and other benefits.

Israeli Defense Minister Welcomes U.S. Military Chief in Jerusalem - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon met with Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey in Jerusalem on Sunday. Ya'alon thanked Dempsey for being a "true friend of the State of Israel and the IDF."
    "The U.S. is a strategic ally and our greatest friend. Relations with the U.S. are a cornerstone in the national security of Israel," Ya'alon said.

Militias Flush with Cash as Libya Becomes Arms Smuggling Hub (World Tribune)
    Libya is now governed by armed militias that control much of the eastern portion of the country, and has become a hub for weapons smuggling throughout the Middle East and Africa.
    See also Oil Battle Looms in Divided Libya - Gwynne Dyer (London Free Press-Canada)
    Much of the eastern half of Libya, Cyrenaica, has been under the control of a coalition of tribal militias led by Ibrahim Jathran since last year.
    He seized control of the terminals on the coast through which two-thirds of Libya's oil production is exported, and set up the "Cyrenaica Political Bureau," which acts as a proto-government in the east.
    The central government in Tripoli is too weak and its army too small to take on a powerful warlord like Jathran.

French Jewish Immigration Reaches New High - Judy Maltz (Ha'aretz)
    854 French immigrants arrived in Israel in January and February, the Jewish Agency said Sunday.
    In 2013, 3,300 French Jews immigrated to Israel, an increase of 70% over the previous year.
    With 500,000 Jews, France is home to the third largest Jewish community in the world.

Egypt's Christians Place Their Faith in Al-Sisi - Aryn Baker (TIME)
    The army chief-turned-presidential candidate, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, is the miracle that Egypt's 8 million Christians have been waiting for after weathering an Islamist leadership.
    When Sisi announced on July 3, 2013, that he had just overthrown President Mohamed Morsi, he was flanked by Egypt's two most important religious leaders, the Grand Sheikh of al Azhar Mosque and Pope Tawadros, head of Egypt's Christian church, united on one stage.
    Now that Sisi is planning a presidential run, he can count on solid support from a Christian population traumatized by fears of continued communal attacks.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Obama Tells Saudi King U.S. Will Not Agree to Bad Deal with Iran
    U.S. President Barack Obama assured Saudi King Abdullah during a meeting in Riyadh on Friday that the U.S. would not accept a bad nuclear deal with Iran, a senior U.S. official said. "President Obama made very clear he believes our strategic interests remain very much aligned," the official said. (Reuters-Chicago Tribune)
  • Iran Names 1979 U.S. Embassy Hostage-Taker Its UN Envoy - Kambiz Foroohar
    Iran has named Hamid Aboutalebi, Iran's former ambassador to Belgium and Italy, who was a member of the militant group that held 52 Americans hostage in Tehran for 444 days, to be its next ambassador to the UN. The U.S. is obliged to grant entry visas to representatives of UN member-states. (Bloomberg)
        See also Former Hostage Views UN Pick - Kambiz Foroohar and David Lerman
    Michael Metrinko, a former diplomat and hostage at the U.S. embassy in Tehran who endured beatings and interrogations during his 444 days of captivity, said it was "really stupid" and ironic for Iran to pick someone associated with taking diplomats hostage to become its top diplomat at the UN. "The Iranian government officials have never understood that they did anything wrong," Metrinko said of the hostage crisis. "It was the most egregious violation of diplomatic norms and protocols."  (Business Week)
  • Palestinians Plan for "Day After" Peace Talks Fail - William Booth and Ruth Eglash
    If U.S.-brokered peace talks collapse in coming days, Palestinians say their options range from urging international boycotts against Israel, holding mass protests, unilaterally seeking more recognition at the UN, and trying to take a case against Israel to the International Criminal Court, alleging that the Israeli military has committed war crimes in the West Bank.
        "It is a huge bluff," said Alan Baker, an expert on international law and a former Israeli ambassador to Canada, adding that it was doubtful that the Palestinians could persuade the International Criminal Court to hear their case. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Official: Palestinians Placing Obstacles in the Way of Peace Talks
    A senior Israeli official said Saturday that Israel was willing to free a fourth group of Palestinian security prisoners, but the Palestinians were placing obstacles in the way. "Israel is interested in continuing the peace talks with the Palestinians and is prepared to carry out the fourth stage of the release of convicted terrorists. But the Palestinians are creating difficulties with this when they say that the moment after the release of the prisoners they will stop the talks."  (AFP-Ynet News)
        See also PM: No Deal to Free Prisoners Without Clear Benefit in Return - Shlomo Cesana
    Israel has refrained from releasing 26 imprisoned terrorists until it becomes clear whether the Palestinians intend to agree to a one-year extension of the negotiations, currently set to end next month. Prime Minister Netanyahu said Sunday that there would be no deal to free prisoners "without a clear benefit [for Israel] in return."  (Israel Hayom)
        See also Israeli Official: Palestinians Did Not Engage in Serious and Good-Faith Negotiations - Michael Wilner and Herb Keinon
    An Israeli official said that the Palestinians did not live up to their commitments, including to engage in serious and good-faith negotiations. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Hands Palestinians Proposal to Extend Peace Talks (AFP-Times of Israel)
  • Report: Kerry Suggests Defining Israel as "National Homeland for Jews" - Roi Kais
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to overcome the controversy surrounding the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state by changing the definition to "the national homeland of the Jews," Al-Hayat reported Saturday. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Kills Two Attempting to Sabotage Syrian Border Fence - Yoav Zitun
    Two men, at least one identified as armed, were killed Friday night near the security barrier in the Golan Heights as they were attempting to sabotage the operational infrastructure on the border. Relying on lessons learned in recent incidents - and more stringent rules of engagement - an arrest procedure was not attempted. The IDF used precision fire to hit the two. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • EU Should Discourage Palestinians from Bypassing Peace Talks - Michael Herzog
    It is important that Europe avoids giving any incentive to the Palestinians to bring about the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In particular, EU states should firmly discourage the Palestinians from resuming efforts to secure recognition in international forums and to re-launch an anti-Israel political-legal international campaign as an alternative to an agreement with Israel.
        If President Abbas feels he will receive broad international support for unilateral measures, especially from Europe, his incentive to engage constructively with U.S.-brokered bilateral talks will be diminished. Brig. Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog, a Senior Visiting Fellow at BICOM, served as chief of staff and senior military aide and advisor to four Israeli ministers of defense. (BICOM-Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre)
  • Israel-Egypt: Peace Treaty, Not Peace - Dina Ezzat
    35 years after the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty was signed in March 1979, trade cooperation has been limited. A member of the Egyptian business community who has been doing business with Israel insists on keeping a low profile for fear of being "stigmatized as dealing with the enemy." He says: "We have a peace deal and we cannot do business, it has been 35 years since this peace treaty was signed and still it is a big issue if someone said let us do business with Israel or let us benefit from their agricultural expertise."
        A retired Egyptian diplomat recalled: "I clearly remember that during the 2006 Israeli attack on Lebanon there was top intelligence information regarding Hizbullah going from Cairo and from other Arab capitals to Israeli counterparts, with the hope that Israel would fully eliminate Hizbullah, which was perceived as an adversary by Cairo due to its ties with both Tehran and Damascus that were antagonizing Egypt." This cooperation was also very much present in the winter of 2009 during Israel's operation against Palestinians in Gaza.
        During the three years that followed the Mubarak era, Israel got to see that in the collective Egyptian consciousness, it remains the enemy. Today, the Israeli diplomatic mission operates from unpublicized venues and at a smaller capacity, especially now that the exchange of official visits at a high level has been halted. "This is the case despite business as usual regarding security cooperation and despite lots of direct communication over the increase in Egyptian forces and arms and military equipment in Sinai, way beyond the limitations of the peace treaty," said an Egyptian diplomat. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
  • The Teaching of Contempt Returns - David Brog
    Most Christians eventually reacted to the Holocaust with responsibility and remorse. They recognized that centuries of negative Christian teachings about Jews and Judaism likely helped predispose Europe towards Hitler's racial anti-Semitism. In 1987, the Presbyterians repudiated negative teachings about Jews, writing: "It is agonizing to discover that the church's teaching of contempt [for the Jews] was a major ingredient that made possible the monstrous policy of annihilation of Jews by Nazi Germany."
        Sadly, the Presbyterians are now emerging as the first major Christian denomination to resume the teaching of contempt in the form of Zionism Unsettled, a wicked book produced by the Israel-Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA). The book is critical of Israel's very existence. It slanders Israel, Israelis and all who support them in their struggle for survival. It is a passion play about bloodthirsty Jews driven by their supremacist Judaism to devour innocent gentile victims. The Presbyterian Church should rush to repudiate this libel. The writer is executive director of Christians United For Israel (CUFI). (Times of Israel)

A Murderer's Life and the Chances of Peace - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)

  • The New York Times did a valuable public service by profiling the life of Muqdad Salah, demonstrating how unlikely peace between Israelis and the Palestinians is.
  • Salah, 47, who was freed from an Israeli jail last year, was given $100,000 at his release by the Palestinian Authority, a no-show salary of $1,800 a month, an honorary rank of brigadier general in the PA military, and praise from his neighbors and fellow Palestinians.
  • Salah wasn't sprung from jail because of new DNA evidence or a witness who has recanted their testimony. There's no doubt that it was he who took an iron bar and struck a 72-year-old Holocaust survivor over the head and murdered him in cold blood in 1993.
  • Salah and dozens of other Palestinian terrorists were released last year as part of the price Israel paid to get PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to return to peace negotiations.
  • That most Palestinians consider a guy who brutally killed an elderly Jew as a hero worthy of a public subsidy (actually paid for by the PA's foreign donors) tells us all we need to know about the chances for peace.
  • The very fact that Palestinians treat men with Jewish blood on their hands as heroes illustrates that theirs is a culture which is not ready for peace with Israel.

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